F1: Will 2019 finally be Ferrari’s year?

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Sebastian Vettel driving the Ferrari SF90 during the Formula One pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. Image sourced from XPB Images.

Ferrari have been very close to Mercedes in recent years, but have failed to deliver a title in the hybrid era; can they finally turn it around in 2019?

Ferrari has probably looked the strongest overall in terms of speed and engine reliability over the two-week period, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Scuderia.

The Italian outfit had a very disruptive start to week two after a cooling issue on day five.

A crash from Sebastian Vettel due to a mechanical failure followed on day six, and lost them a lot of ground but luckily they made it up on the final two test days with some fast and reliable running.

“I turned the corner and there seemed to be a problem with the suspension in the front left corner,” Vettel explained.

“From then on I was a passenger all the way to the barriers. I had no chance to prevent the crash.”

During testing, Vettel was asked about his chances of winning his fifth world title aboard the famous red racing car:

“I see this as a long way, it’s only February,” Sebastian responded.

“We’re facing a long season with big challenges. But we have a strong squad, we’re going into the GP season with a lot of self-confidence.”

Vettel added: “We want to be on speed from the first race on. Ferrari has all the ingredients to become World Champion and in 2019 we want to finally reach our big goal.”

Ferrari’s young prodigy Charles Leclerc has joined the team and his partnership with the German driver is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated inter team match-ups of the season.

Vettel, who is known to be a very emotional driver, will not want a repeat of the 2014 campaign anytime soon, where he was firmly beaten by Red Bull new boy Daniel Ricciardo.

Charles Leclerc leaves the pit lane at Catalunya aboard his Ferrari SF90. Image sourced from motorsport.com

Ferrari have stated that they will favour Vettel early on in the season “if required”.

They also have a new team principal in their former technical director, Mattia Binotto.

It seems Binotto’s promotion has had a positive affect on the morale and atmosphere of the Ferrari team and discussed his thoughts on the team’s chances in the forthcoming season:

“[For] several years we’ve been working all together, trying to improve step by step, season by season,” Binotto said in Barcelona.

“The philosophy for this season certainly is to try and enjoy it. That’s something that we were maybe missing in the past.”

Binotto continued: “Certainly we are enjoying winning, but I think you can simply enjoy by trying to be teammates, something which we are trying to consolidate, let’s say.”

Mattia Binotto (right) has succeeded Maurizio Arrivabene as Ferrari’s new team principal and carries the dubious task of ending the Scuderia’s championship drought. Image sourced from GrandPrix247.com

Ferrari seem to be very strong on pace too according to some people around the paddock, including Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff:

“We had a big regulation change and you can see two different kind of concepts. And it looks like Ferrari have found the exact sweet spot there,” Wolff told the German media.

“[The] first impression after three days, Ferrari is fast. Faster than us.”

Wolff’s equivelant at Toro Rosso, Franz Tost is another who believes the Scuderia will be setting the pace in Australia:

“Ferrari looks really strong,” Tost said.

“You can see how the car turns and does what the driver wants.”

“Ferrari is almost 4-5 tenths faster than Mercedes and Red Bull at this point.”

Ferrari themselves have been a lot more open to the media recently and seem more confident compared to recent years.

With that said, they’ll be hoping to hit the ground running in Melbourne and try to get the advantage over Mercedes early on.

A key factor in whether the Scuderia will be able to challenge will be if Vettel can iron out his mistakes which plagued him in 2018.

It won’t all rest on Vettel’s shoulders though, as Ferrari themselves haven’t been the best at making strategic decisions in the past, something they will need to get on top of if they want bring a title back to Maranello.

The first race of the 2019 Formula One World Championship will take place in Melbourne, Australia at the Albert Park Circuit on Sunday 17th March.

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